14 January 2009

A Conversation on Criticism, Science Fiction, and Other Stuff

Eric Rosenfield was exploring the world of critical writing about science fiction, and he emailed me some questions and ideas, and I responded, and then he responded, and somewhere along the line he asked if he could post the conversation on his site, Wet Asphalt. I was scared at first, since I'd just been irresponsibly throwing ideas around without really polishing them in the way I would even for a blog post, but I didn't say anything truly scandalous, so said okay.

Part 1 of the conversation has now been posted.

It feels very strange to have such naked yakking out there for the world to see, and I hope people will forgive my contradictions, misrepresentations of other people's ideas, generalities, unsupported opinions, ignorances, insults, etc. Perhaps somewhere in it all, there's something useful. Until the last one or two emails, it really was just us throwing ideas around.


  1. I really enjoyed the article, probably because it's the kind of conversation I've heard in my head for a while now. This:

    These days I mostly believe that SF is not a style of writing, but a publishing community, and that nothing done new in the SF world must remain SF anymore -- anything that is new is going to be able to be presented under the guise of "fiction" or "literature" now because the forces that led to the creation of something called science fiction in the U.S. have changed. Readers' relationships to both technology and to texts have changed. This doesn't mean SF will disappear, but rather that it will do what it's been doing for a while now, which is reiterate the structures of the past and feel more and more quaint, while things that could, in fact, be termed science fictional will be bought, sold, and read as something else. The only people who have a problem with this are people who both want their lit to be new and different and who still want to attend science fiction conventions.

    is probably the most concise summary of the whole genre/slipstream/literary fiction mess that I've yet read.

  2. In case you haven't yet seen it: Some discussion over at the Vector blog, though so far it mostly consists of Niall and Graham arguing terms with Adam Roberts.

  3. David: And snark. Don't forget the snark.

  4. I'll gladly leave the Endless Quest book of critical discussions to those with British accents, but when is someone going to bring up that Analog was so named because of that other definition it must suffer with. You know, "having the property of being analogous to something else."

    I suppose I'm being unnecessarily literal (and THAT clearly never happens in THIS field) but the analog/digital joke just lacks that knee-slapping punch for me. Though I guess a guy in 1960 SHOULD HAVE SEEN DIGITAL COMING, right?

  5. Innovation doesn't generally take place at the level of story, which is one reason why SF is seldom innovative anymore -- it's too wedded to the need to tell certain types of stories. No big deal; innovation can come from elsewhere.

    Do you have any idea where the inovation can be found nowadays? Either empirically or potentially? And according to your impression at what point SF stopped being a locus of innovation?